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Senate Bill Will Have Public Option

WASHINGTON (CN) - The Senate health bill will include a public option, Majority Leader Harry Reid said Monday after weeks of closed-door deliberations. "I believe it's an important way to ensure competition and to level the playing field for patients with the insurance industry," Reid said, but added that it is not a silver bullet.

"I feel good about the consensus that was reached," Reid added, and credited his faith to the "unprecedented momentum that now exists."

The announcement comes after nearly two weeks of closed door deliberations to combine two health bills passed by the Senate Finance Committee and the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.

As currently written, states would have the opportunity to opt out of the public option.

The health committee had no Republican support when it passed its version of the health bill, which called for a public option. The finance committee version passed with one Republican vote, but it lacked the public option.

The bill must now get 60 votes to pass without threat of a filibuster. One question is whether there will be more support of a bill with a public option or of one without the option.

While Republicans have been firm in their opposition to the option, Democrats have waivered, with many voting against the public option in their own committees.

But a Washington Post- ABC News poll released last week showed that 57 percent of Americans now favor a public option, up from earlier estimates, and this surge may be what's driving the support for the option in the Senate.

Reid said he would submit the combined senate health bill to the Congressional Budget Office so it could evaluate the costs of the bill.

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